GENTRY -- The McKee Community Room at the Gentry Public Library was filled to capacity on Thursday night as local business leaders gathered to honor Gentry's business of the year and learn of plans to revitalize Gentry's Main Street.
The special event, called "Community Business Night," and "a community mixer" replaced the annual chamber banquet this year and featured presentations on projects in Gentry and the most recent plans and drawings of the downtown revitalization project.
Chamber of Commerce director Janie Parks welcomed attendees and announced the Gentry Medical Clinic as Gentry's Business of the Year. She read a brief history of the clinic in Gentry and presented the award to Doctors Ashish Mathur and John Caswell. The clinic nurses and support staff were also acknowledged.
Mayor Kevin Johnston updated those in attendance on city projects, including the wastewater master plan, the city's new splash pad and the sports complex. He announced his hopes and plans to open the splash pad and the new sports complex on Memorial Day weekend.
He also informed those in attendance of the new state project to add turning lanes at the intersection of Arkansas Highways 12 and 59, explaining that surveying, engineering and utility relocation work would have to be completed first before the actual construction begins. He anticipated actual construction to begin in December 2023. He said the city had been requesting this for years and now the work has been assigned a state project number, so it will finally get done even though it will take about two years to be completed. State Representative Delia Haak was praised for her role in helping to get the project moving forward.
Rep. Haak thanked those in attendance for allowing her to represent them in Little Rock. She said her first term as a state representative has made her so thankful for the people of Gentry and the district she serves because of the close communities and the way people work together for the common good.
She spoke of the need for increased broadband coverage in the region, mentioning that internet service was not available for many in the area. She explained how difficult this makes doing business or getting an education, saying she had to come to the library or to McDonald's for internet service to do much of her work as a state representative during the height of the pandemic because internet service is not available at her home just outside of Gentry.
Haak also praised the hard work and dedication of Mayor Kevin Johnston and his wife, Lori, for the people of the Gentry Community.
Following the award presentation and informational talks, those in attendance were treated to sandwiches and desserts provided by local Gentry businesses and given time to visit and view the many plans and drawings around the room showing what Gentry's Main Street could look like if revitalization plans continue to move forward.
The evening event was arranged and coordinated by the Gentry Chamber of Commerce.